1942 Die Entlassung (Wolfgang Liebeneiner)
If you download the Matroska link to the right, you will get a mkv-file with optional subtitles, which you can play with a vlc-player on your computer.
The idea to make a film about Bismarck's downfall is a rather curious one because the film shows around the clock that Bismarck (Emil Jannings) tries to preserve peace and avoid a war against France and Russia on two fronts while the unlikeable, young and arrogant emperor Wilhelm II. (Werner Hinz) doesn't care and finally gets rid of Bismarck.
The film not only fits badly in the political climate, it also is mostly free of overly aggressive propaganda save for a chilling speech in the parliament as well as the ending where Bismarck ponders who will continue his work (insert Hitler here). With these scenes removed we get a reasonably entertaining, dramatic and harmless picture and that's what was done after the war and shown under the title Schicksalswende. Hilariously the commercial tape uses this title but shows the uncut version while the DVD uses the original title but shows the cut version.
This is the original Version of Liebeneiner's "Die Entlassung". After the war the film was forbidden by the Alliierte Militärzensur (in June 1945) and then cut shorter, before it was rereleased in 1952 under the new title "Schicksalswende" (This is actually misleading, as the version from 1942 seems to deserve that title much more, while the post war cut tries to concentrate on the Entlasssung (Bismarck's dismissal).) This censored version was released on DVD by Blackhill a couple of years ago (under the wrong title: "Die Entlassung"). In the 1990s this film had already been released on VHS, but funnily in the longer version from 1942 (but under the postwar title "Schicksalswende", but I guess most of you lost track already - just to complicate it further: each version use the right title in the pre-titles).
The pieces that have been cut back in, are a part of Bismarck's speech in front of the Reichstag, his monologue towards the end and a small piece of Anti-french resentment in the beginning of the film, which all are parts, where Jannings is at the peak of his Bismarck performance I'd say. Since these 'historical' parts (mainly the speech in the Reichstag) are missing in the cut version (and since the film is not too historically accurate all in all), the censors also cut out the disclaimer in the pre-titles, which led to an unforgivable castration of the film's score in the beginning. All of this has been restored now.
It seems worth noting more closely, which parts have been cut out. First the second half of Bismarck's speech in front of the Reichstag. Bismarck here mocks the SPD-delegates, who do not want to agree to the new army and military expenses. He accuses them of abusing democracy, by making false promises to the voters, who only follow them in hope for a share of a wealth that cannot be distributed actually. Additionally he points to other countries, where allegedly the socialists do make their claims, but with the sub-rosa agreement, not to weaken their own mother-states too severely - this is supposed to be different with the German socialists who dare to endanger the entire nation. In the climate of West-German denazification this reduction of politics to managing the state was an inacceptable, typical NS point of view. In fact "politics" during the Third Reich were not even supposed to be the art of regulating the inner-statal affairs (that was only a necessary side job) which could be done good or bad for the benefit or the bad of all, regardless individual interests. Competition of interests during the Third Reich was only allowed on a inter-national level, and here its means were: war. Other than in the 1950s, today, 2013, we are again not too far away from such a definition of the 'political sphere' anymore, so this part of the criticism (the criticism which caused the 1950 shortenings) might be lost on most viewers today. The only thing that still arouses people perhaps, is the way Jannings plays his Bismarck in this scene. He very much resembles Hitler's performance towards the end of this speech.
So it is rather difficult to say, what Blackhill was trying to save, when they left the shortenings from 1952 of the Speech in the DVD: Bismarck's image as unquestioned and glorified figure of German history (by cutting out a scene, where he is shown as radical anti-democrat), or Liebeneiner's reputation as a director and Jannings heritage as an actor (by cutting out a scene, where he plays Bismarck like Hitler). I guess the second choice is more likely.
The second piece cut out is Bismarcks short monologue at the end of the film which leads to the final apotheosis, when he stands in front of the painting of the crowning in Versailles and asks: "Who will finish my work, Germany, the Reich ?" (selfevidently unoutspoken answer: Hitler). No reason to explain further, why this cut was made.
But perhaps the basic explanation for relesing the castrated version from 1952 is rather simple. At least one of the motives of the censors 1952 was to disconnect the film from its national-socialistic embedding where it works propagandistically as an overal historical interpretation. Both cut scenes do support a perspective on history, that explains the NS-state as a necessary answer to the political situation caused by the events during the second half of the 19th century and do juxtapose certain aspects of Bismarck's (unsuccessful) struggle bck then with the (successful) NS-measures since 1933. This danger of mis-educating a naive audience is definitely weakened through the cuts, but the question is, if the aim of a full denazification was really achieved. In my opinion, the discussion about a national socialisms, which was still in the postwar 1952 cut version of the film, is a Bismarck/Hitler double exposure far more effective and subtle than the rant against the SPD or his final speech.
In any case I prefer to watch the uncut version and see it as a Nationalsocialistic piece of historical film and judge it myself.
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